SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 50 satellites into orbit for Starlink, BlackSky mega-constellation
CAP CANAVERAL, Fla .– SpaceX just launched the first of four Falcon 9 rocket launches slated for this month, with its state-of-the-art rocket carrying a stack of 48 Starlink satellites and two BlackSky Earth Observation satellites in orbit, before to stick an extra landing at sea.
The previously flown Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 here at the Cape Canaveral Space Station at 6:12 p.m. EST (2312 GMT), marking the ninth flight of this particular thruster.
“The Falcon has landed,” SpaceX representatives said on the live broadcast. “You can hear the cheers and the applause and there’s the visual; that first stage booster landed a total of nine times.”
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The successful liftoff marked the second improved batch of Starlink satellites to be launched from Florida on one of its 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rockets in six months. (SpaceX also launched a Starlink mission from its California-based launch pad in September.)
The company established a rapid launch pace earlier this year, but briefly took a few months’ hiatus to upgrade its own broadband internet satellites, which are now equipped with laser systems to communicate with each other in orbit, and less with the ground, the company said.
About nine minutes after takeoff, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth, landing on SpaceX’s “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone for a successful vertical landing. The ship is the newest member of SpaceX’s recovery fleet, bringing the total number of mobile landing pads to three. He resides in Port Canaveral, taking charge of east coast launches alongside his âJust Read the Instructionsâ counterpart. (The company’s “Of course, I still love you” drone is currently based in California, catching rockets returning to Earth off the coast of California.)
SpaceX officials have said that due to delays with the launch of its most recent crew to the International Space Station, Just Read the Instructions has been forced to stay at sea, braving waves ranging from 20 feet to 25 feet ( 6 to 8 m) high. Although the drone ships are designed to withstand these wave heights, the teams opted to change the ships (and crew) so that the teams are fresh for both launches.
SpaceX’s Starlink mega-constellation is designed to provide high-speed internet coverage to users around the world below, especially those in remote and rural areas who do not have access to traditional internet connections.
To date, SpaceX has launched nearly 1,900 flat-panel broadband satellites, with just under 900 launched in 2021 alone. The company has approved an additional 30,000 satellites, with an option for up to 42,000 .
Today’s flight is the third batch of the company’s recently upgraded Starlink Internet satellites, with a stack of 48 Starlink satellites sharing a path with two Earth observation satellites for BlackSky. The two BlackSky satellites successfully separated from the top stage of the rocket about an hour after takeoff, and the 48 Starlink satellites separated about half an hour later, the company confirmed in a broadcast in direct from the launch and on Twitter.
This mission marks the second carpool mission for BlackSky, and the two optical satellites on board each weigh approximately 121 pounds (55 kilograms). They will join eight others to help fill the planned constellation of BlackSky. A total of 12 satellites will ultimately constitute the constellation planned by the company with two additional satellites scheduled for launch during an upcoming Rocket Lab mission.
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A reused rocket
Today’s Falcon 9 rocket, called the B1060, is a proven flight thruster that has now flown nine times. It debuted in June 2020, carrying an improved GPS satellite into space for the US Space Force. Its other payloads included another carpooling mission called Transporter-2, a communications satellite for Turkey, and five additional Starlink missions.
The flight marked the 27th launch of 2021 for SpaceX and the 32nd dedicated launch of Starlink for the company’s burgeoning constellation. It is also the 130th overall flight of a Falcon 9 rocket and the 115th from Florida.
In addition to the first stage of the rocket, SpaceX also recycled the shell-shaped protective material that envelops the payload. Called the payload fairing (or nose cone), the two pieces are a tenth of the cost of the rocket, SpaceX officials said. Each coin earns $ 3 million, so reusing them saves costs.
Equipped with navigation software and parachutes, the fairings will begin smoothly in the Atlantic Ocean where they will be picked up by one of SpaceX’s salvage ships to be refurbished for a future flight.
SpaceX’s launch tonight is the first in a dual global launch schedule. Just over 24 hours later, at 7:23 p.m. EST on Friday December 3 (0023 December 4 GMT), an Arianespace Soyuz rocket will carry two new Galileo navigation satellites into space from French Guiana. The satellites are the European counterpart to the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites that we use here in the United States.
This launch was delayed for 24 hours due to an issue with a tracking station downstream of the launch, Arianespace officials said on twitter.
Tonight’s Falcon 9 launch marks the first of five launches slated to take off from Florida in December. The next mission, scheduled for Sunday morning (December 5), features a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a mix of payloads for the US Space Force. One such payload includes a new laser communication system for NASA called Laser Communications Relay Demonstration.
Also on deck is NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, scheduled for December 9; a communications satellite for Turkey (Turksat 5B), scheduled for December 18, and finally a cargo refueling mission that is expected to transport cargo to the International Space Station on December 21.